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three inches, and for the Guards five feet six inches. The recruit, when enlisted, must be between the ages of twenty and thirty-five, and he is not entitled to his discharge until he has served for twenty-five years. The wife of a soldier is free, and his children are the property of the crown, which educates the boys as soldiers, and places them in the ranks when old enough to serve.
The dread which the Russian peasant has of the conscription is not surprising, when the severity of military service and of military discipline in this country is bome in mind, and when we remember how completely in his case every tie of family or of affection is severed, and every previous hope and prospect destroyed, when once he is enrolled in the ranks of the army. In fact, to make him a soldier is the most alarming and effectual threat which a Russian master can hold out to the most vicious and refractory of his peasants, and the infliction of this dreaded punishment is reserved for the worst and the most incorrigible characters.
On the estates which belong to the crown, and which form nearly one-half of the landed property of the empire, the lot of furnishing a conscript falls upon each family in turn, according to the number of males of which it consists, the selection being made by the community of peasants themselves. The same rule holds good with regard to the traders, but their numbers are so small in proportion to the peasants, that the ranks of the army may be considered as almost entirely filled by the latter class.
When the families on the Crown estates who are to furnish recruits have been fixed upon by the community, their names are sent in to the Board which I have mentioned ; and it is the duty of the Board, and the most troublesome part of its business, to ascertain that the choice is just and proper. This is done by referring to the registers in which the names and ages of all the male peasants on the estate are inserted, and also by examining the individuals themselves, and hearing all that they have to urge on their own behalf.
It not uncommonly happens that in a numerous family the sons are all too young, and that the father alone is capable of rving, while upon him the family depend for their mainten
ance ; and when this occurs, the case is truly pitiable; while, if the selection have been just,* the Board have often no power to remedy the evil, or to discharge the conscript. When there are two or more brothers of the proper age and height, they either draw lots, or the father names which he pleases as the recruit. Although no one can be compelled to serve until the
of twenty, young men, who are not less than seventeen, and who are of the proper height, may be received, by their own consent, in the room of others.
Substitutes are occasionally purchased ; and in this case a legal contract is drawn up beforehand, after entering into which the substitute cannot flinch from his bargain; but before he is received as a soldier, the money, or whatever part of it remains due, must be paid to him in presence of the Board. If he wishes a portion to be given to any of his family, the persons whom he may name are called in to receive it; and, finally, a statement of the whole transaction is entered on the minutes. To purchase a substitute costs sometimes not less than a hundred pounds; but the peasants on the crown estates are occasionally possessed of considerable wealth, and can afford to pay thus highly for exemption from their turn of service.
The peasants belonging to the estates of private individuals afford comparatively little trouble to the Board, since it has only to asertain that the recruit is of the proper age and height, and that he is physically qualified for service. It being the privilege of the proprietors to select any of their serfs whom they please as conscripts, they naturally endeavour to pick out the worst characters and the most useless men for this purpose. If they have none whom they wish to get rid of for misconduct, they generally make those families draw lots in which there are three or four grown-up sons, and from which therefore one can best be spared.
For every recruit who is received, and who is afterwards proved to have been at the time of enlistment physically unfit for service, each member of the Board is liable to a penalty of five hundred roubles, about twenty pounds.
Bribery often prevails to a great extent in the business of * I must observe that it is a general instruction to the Board to avoid ruining any family.
the recruitment; masters paying to have bad characters, who are unfit for soldiers, received ; and conscripts who are fit for service paying to be rejected. Clerks are sometimes detected in receiving from fifty to a hundred roubles from poor fellows, for protection which they promise, but which they have no power to give ; and these gentlemen are occasionally punished by being made soldiers themselves. The doctor, too, in xamining the conscripts, not unfrequently, when he inspects their teeth, finds, not a silver spoon, but a gold piece in their mouths, which he is intended to pocket, pronouncing the man in return unfit for service.
But the system of bribery is not always confined to these petty offences. The roubles are sometimes paid in thousands; and the receivers are neither the clerks nor the surgeons to the Board. It is said that the president, if he manages matters well, may clear during the two months of the sitting upwards of two thousand pounds. When this is the case, clerks receive their mites with impunity ; and gold pieces are quietly transferred from the mouths of the conscripts to the pockets of the doctor; instead of being publicly laid on the table of the board, as happens almost daily here. For the president is known to be incorruptible himself, and therefore not inclined to connive at the delinquencies and peculations of others.
Having, as I have already told you, attended a sitting of the board of enlistment, I will endeavour to make you acquainted with their manner of proceeding, by giving you some description of the scene.
The members, as well as the doctors and the secretary, all appear in the civil uniform, which differs little from the military, except in the absence of epaulettes. A standard measure, which cannot be lowered below five feet three inches, is placed in the room, and this is flanked on either side by a tall corporal.
The ante-room is crowded with peasants; and there are a certain number of soldiers and policemen in attendance to keep order. I must premise that when a man is received as a soldier a patch is immediately shaved on his forehead to mark him ; while, if he is rejected, a patch is shaved at the back of his neck, to show that he has been examined, and to prevent his being brought forward a second time. At the conclusion of each day's sitting the recruits who have been enlisted are
marched in a body to a church, where they take the oaths of allegiance and fidelity before a priest.
To return to the proceedings of the Board : we will suppose the business to begin with the examination of the conscripts furnished from the private estate of a noble.
At the president's order one of the corporals in attendance opens the door into the ante-room, and calls out for the peasants of Ivan Petroitch Pashkoff to be in readiness : the president then reads out A. B., the first name on the list of conscripts sent by Mr. Pashkoff.
“ A. B., come in!” shouts the corporal, and in walks A. B. stark naked. He is first placed under the standard, the corporal on either side taking care that he holds himself upright, which he is not very willing to do.
“ Five feet four inches," * says the corporal. The president enters the man's height opposite to his name in a book; and the conscript is then handed over to the doctor, who pronounces him sound and fit for service. The field-officer then examines him, to ascertain that there is no peculiarity in his person, such as his being very much bandy-legged or knock-kneed, or having an extraordinarily-shaped head, which would interfere with his wearing uniform. He also pronounces his approval of the recruit. The president enters everything in his book, and simply calls out “ Lop" (forehead). The corporal instantly shoves A. B. out of the room, shouting “ Lop."-Lop, lop, is repeated in the ante-room, and the man is taken straight into another apartment, where his forehead is shaved, and he finds himself an enlisted soldier. In the mean time, C. D. appears before the Board. He is, perhaps, too short; for if a sheet of paper can be passed between the man's head and the measure marking five feet three, he is rejected; or else the doctor or inspecting officer finds that he is physically unfit for the service. The president calls out " Zatillac" (neck); C. D. is shoved out of the room; “ Zatillac, zatillac” is repeated in the ante-room; the back of the man's neck is shaved, and he is set at liberty. If a man declares himself to be labouring under any defect, or to be subject to any complaint unfitting
* This is expressed in Russian in a manner which, if literally translated, would be unintelligible in English. Five feet three inches, it will be remembered, is the minimum height for a soldier.
him for a soldier, while the case is such that the truth cannot be ascertained at the moment, he is sent to the hospital for further examination, and a report on his case is sent to the Board the following day. These poor men often counterfeit fits and other infirmities, in order to avoid being enlisted; but if they are, discovered, they are liable to severe punishment, and their privilege of claiming a discharge after twenty-five years' service is sometimes taken away from them.
When the turn of the crown peasants comes, three brothers perhaps enter together, one of whom is to be selected. They are accompanied by their father and mother, and their wives and children, if they have any; decency being laid aside, for the three young men, like all the conscripts, present themselves stark naked. The board, after referring to the register, and after hearing all that the men, or that their father and mother have to urge in their behalf, decide that it is justly the turn of this family to furnish a conscript. The three brothers are therefore measured and examined, as in the case which I have already described. The result we will suppose to be that the eldest is tall and healthy, but he has a wife and three or four children; the second measures but five feet two inches; and the third brother is a fine growing lad of eighteen. Of the three, therefore, the youngest is under age, and the second is under size. They, therefore, are legally exempted from the conscription, and the eldest brother must be taken away from his wife and family, and must become a soldier, unless the lad of eighteen will voluntarily consent to serve in his stead.
A scene now ensues, which is at the same time both pathetic and ludicrous. The elder brother and his wife, the father and mother, and the little children, all throw themselves on the ground and prostrate themselves repeatedly at the feet of the young man, beseeching him to have pity on the family of his brother, and to consent to be enlisted in his place. lad looks with a bewildered air from one to another, not exactly knowing what to do; on the one hand, having no fancy to become a soldier, and, on the other hand, wanting resolution positively to refuse. He is pressed on every side, for the members of the Board add their exhortations to the entreaties of his family. Some bid him be a good Christian and sacrifice himself for his relatives, while others encourage him with the promise of